DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I'm a 22 years old student and I'm currently facing difficulties in my social life. Until the past 1 or 2 years, I was living a very asocial life. Even though I'm an introvert, I managed to get back on my feet quickly and I'm pretty happy with my progress. The problem is, living a big part of my life as an asocial person (especially the teenage years) has had almost permanent effects on my personality. Trying to change them for good becomes a frustrating struggle. Let me elaborate.
Nowadays I'm very good at networking and communication in general. In fact, I'm a talkative person. But when it comes to dating, since I don't have much experience, I face with lots of problems.
After one or two dates, I struggle too much with trying to find things to talk about and things to do together. But I think I know the reason. A person with an active social life has lots of things to talk about because they have been to lots of events, met many people, gone to many places etc. But someone like me with asocial hobbies realize that you don't have any interesting things to talk about, you don't know much good places to take your date to. You realize how boring you became over the past couple of years.
I'm a guy and I really don't have this problem in my normal day-to-day conversations, especially with guys since we usually have common interests. I mostly struggle during a date with a girl. I don't have much experience with dating and I think I became too boring for a girl to spend time with. Maybe I'm too focused on my approaching career and working too hard. I need to take a break and become a more fun person to spend time with. But the process of trying to change my personality is hard. I'm getting tired, but learning a lot at the same time.
Physically, I'm not a bad looking guy but I can be considered as a shy "good guy", which girls, especially the ones at my age, are not really into. Even worse, I'm very emotional and tend to overthink everything to an extend where it puts me in deep stress and depression. I get attached to a girl very quickly. But girls on the other hand are usually the exact opposite. Since there is always a guy trying to date with them, they don't really care and go with the flow. This kills me because I care about every little detail and overthink everything just to realize the girl does not even remember my age (or any other basic information about me). The reason is, she knows there are plenty fish in the sea. But there aren't plenty for me.
There are other side effects of my introvert personality such as not being able to make eye contact. But in short, I don't know how to date. I want a girl to have fun spending time with me. And I want to be able to transition from casual coffee dates to an actual relationship. I don't really care about casual hookups, I'm looking for a serious relationship. I know I'm young but I'll graduate soon and I'm afraid I won't be able to find the right person.
I fail a lot but keep trying. Any advice would be appreciated.
First Time Unlucky
DEAR FIRST TIME UNLUCKY: Ok FTU, I think you're a classic case of "the problems you have isn't the problem you think you have".
Your biggest issue is that you've made a classic mistake - something that lots of guys before you have made. You're treating dating and socializing like it's a separate part of your life. You've created this false duality: the version of you who's talkative and charismatic when he's "networking", and this person who's shy and retiring when he's "dating".
But the thing is: that's the same person. It's not like you're Dr. Jekyll as long as business cards are being exchanged and Edward Hyde when you're hoping to get a phone number instead. It's still you. It's not even as though they're completely unrelated skills. The principles that affect how that you connect with people when you're networking are exactly the same when you're trying to make friends... or when you're trying to connect with someone on a date, for that matter. They're all forms of fostering relationships; the only difference is the end goal. If you're networking, you're trying to build a relationship that will lead to a stronger professional connection. If you're on a date, you're hoping to build a relationship that will lead to a stronger personal connection. And to be perfectly honest, the changes you need to make to reach these different goals are fairly minor. You're still looking for commonalities, because we instinctively like people who like us. You're still looking to create positive feelings in the other person, because they'll associate you with feeling good. The difference is that, on a date, you're making a point to show sexual or romantic interest and you're sharing a little more about yourself.
Your problem isn't one of personality, or even an inability to change. You've already proven you can change. You said it yourself: "Nowadays I'm very good at networking and communication in general. In fact, I'm a talkative person." Call me crazy, but that sounds like a pretty different person than someone who was incredibly isolated and asocial. But you perceive yourself as someone who Is Not Good With Girls and that makes all the difference.
And it's perception that's the problem. You're making judgments that aren't accurate based on mistaken perception. You see yourself as Not Good With Girls and so you frame every interaction in that mindset. You assume that you're boring and so you come across as boring; you treat conversations as an imposition on women's time and energy. You assume that women are drowning in men's attention and so you have to compete with literally every other man out there. As a result, you're continually convinced that you're losing out to some phantom man. And literally none of that is true.
I mean, seriously. Talk to some of the women in your life and you'll realize that not only that there isn't always a guy trying to date them, but that all attention isn't good attention. For a lot of women, all that attention isn't Studly Goodnight asking them out for a night of wine and roses, it's a horde of men saying "Want some dick? Want some dick? Want some dick?" It's like saying that somebody is lucky that people are always offering them food when the food they're offering is moldy garbage.
But you aren't moldy garbage, FTU, you're a tasty gourmet meal... so why are you selling yourself like you're garbage?
Women aren't forgetting information about you because they're swimming in dudes, it's because you're not giving them any reason to remember you. Nobody is going to be interested in dating someone who presents themself as "It's ok if you don't want to date me; I wouldn't want to date me either." There's a reason why Marvin the Android and Eeyore aren't sex symbols, my dude. If you want women to give a damn about you, you need to give a damn about yourself first, not sell yourself short.
So the first step for learning to get better with women for you is learning to live like you give a damn. What is it about you that makes you unique? What makes you special? What would make any woman lucky if she had a chance to date you? And if the answer is "nothing"... then it's time to go out and start finding those things. If you're ashamed of your hobbies, then start finding some new ones. If you love the ones you got, then the key is to find people who love that stuff too.
It's not that you have to be the brightest, shiniest penny. You don't need to appeal to everyone; not only does this foster weak attraction, but it's impossible on its face. As Dita Von Teese once said: you can be the biggest, sweetest, juiciest peach around and some folks just plain won't like peaches. All you need to do is focus on being the best version of yourself. Yeah, this means that you won't be everyone's cup of tea... but you will be somebody's shot of whiskey.
It's not that you need to change your life, FTU, it's that you need to change how you see yourself. You've achieved more than you realize, you're capable of more than you believe and you're stronger and more desirable than you know. You just won't let yourself see it.
Start seeing yourself through different eyes and recognizing how much of a sexy badass you already are and you'll start getting the results you're looking for.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am a senior in high school and have been in a relationship with my lovely, wonderful, adorable boyfriend for about a year and a half. We communicate really well, but I'm a little socially awkward and I wanted to see if you could shed some light on a situation that I might be misreading.
My boyfriend is captain of a sports team at the school. He is very close with them and calls them his 'family' on many occasions. He seemed eager to introduce me to them, and though we probably wouldn't usually run in the same social circles, we seemed to get along well enough when in a group.
However, whenever they want to get together with him last minute and we're together, he feels the need to ask them for permission before allowing me to come. Which I get, but they always says yes... He still seems really nervous about me coming, even if it's just to chill, and avoids giving me a direct answer when I ask why. It's not a dude thing either, because the girls and boys teams almost always mingle together. I've asked multiple times if I should just back off and never come to events, so he can spend private time with his team, but he always says that's not necessary, asks permission, and then sits staring at his phone waiting for it.
One time, he held a traditional pre game dinner at his house. I was staying for the weekend, and both my parents were in different states, so I didn't really want to go home and be alone. He said I could stay, but that some of the guys might not like it if I was upstairs. I was shocked. I hid in his room while he brought dinner down to me. I couldn't even leave the room to eat, I guess.
I felt terrible about this situation, and he apologized, but it still felt really wrong. I felt like he was ashamed of me.
What gives? Is there a hint I'm not getting here? Should I back off from his team and just not say anything? What confuses me is I've offered and he's never taken me up on it. This is the only consistent problem we've had.
Dirty Little Secret
DEAR DIRTY LITTLE SECRET: There're a couple of possibilities here, DLS.
The first is that he worries that having his girlfriend around would shake up the vibe of the group, especially if his friends and teammates aren't bringing their significant others to the shindig. Some people worry about being the person who's always dragging their partner to stuff, even when it may not be appropriate for that partner to be there. It's also possible that he worries that by bringing you to things, people might think that you're forcing yourself along or that you're so clingy or needy demand-y that he has to bring you along.
The second possibility is that he's embarrassed to have you around. Now I want to insist: this doesn't mean that you are the problem. Some guys, especially in high-school, are stupidly insecure about who they date. For many young guys, the goal isn't to date someone they think is hot and desirable, it's to date someone they think their friends would think is hot and desirable. If he thinks his friends might give him crap for dating you, then he may try to keep you away from them in an out-of-sight, out-of-mind scenario.
The third possibility is that he's embarrassed about them. Maybe they're assholes. Maybe they say stupid and hurtful things and he doesn't want you to hear it.
Or it's possible that you and his friends weren't a great fit and he doesn't know how to talk about it with you.
But I have no way of knowing, especially since I'm not there. The only person who can tell you what's going through his head is him.
(What I can say is that sure, I get that you guys are in high-school but JESUS this dude is handing things badly. Keeping you sequestered in his room all night? What the hell, actual?)
You need to sit your boyfriend down and have an Awkward Conversation with him about this. His behavior is making you feel like he's ashamed of you and you're his dirty secret. You don't deserve to be treated that way, especially by someone you love and who loves you. So it's time for you to explain to him how this behavior makes you feel and how you want an actual answer from him.
Just be ready; the answer you get may not be pleasant, for a multitude of reasons.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)